LUMA by Helen Mac Mahon and Encounters by Mario Sughi
at Luan Gallery, Athlone, 30 June -26 August 2017
There are many different sources of light; natural and artificial, illuminating our lives daily - brightening our paths, throwing shadows and creating mood. Neon lights, moon light, street lights, lamp light, twilight, spotlight, candle light and sun light; omnipresent luminescence keeps us from darkness. From soft atmospheric hues to bright harsh beams, light has been of perpetuating importance in human existence since the earliest times. Light is often used in art and architecture to light structures, emphasise form and highlight texture. In LUMA at Luan Gallery’s 2017 summer show we see a less familiar application of light in the gallery context with an exhibition of Light Art. Here, light becomes the medium of creative expression through the manipulation of colour, beams and shadow.
Helen Mac Mahon is a Dublin based artist who having graduated from DIT Fine Art in 2013 has gone from strength to strength with her burgeoning creative career. Achieving artist awards such as: the Foundation14 Arts Festival People's Choice Award, and completing a number of artist residencies including a stint at the Cill Rialaig Artists Retreat, Helen has developed a unique practice using light as the catalyst throughout.
Interested in the phenomena of 'light, movement, perception and space', Mac Mahon completes visual investigations and experiments in an effort to harness a multitude of effects using both natural and artificial light. She plays with optic caustics –reflected or refracted light rays, moiré patterns, visual disturbances, and encompasses projection and interaction in her work.
Much like a scientist in a lab, the artist conducts meticulous research and trials incorporating scientific and artistic methodologies. Mac Mahon creates living paintings which are ‘activated’ by light effects. They exist where light exists and like their stimulating light rays, they change regularly - strengthening and dimming creating unique energies.
Cognisant of the site specificity of Luan Gallery, for LUMA the artist is attempting to recreate the effects of light reflection on the gallery-side Shannon waters by installing large sculptural curtains across the window spans of the River Gallery. In the New Gallery, the artist is utilising the room’s blackout capabilities to showcase a series of works triggered by artificial light. Outside the confines of the gallery walls, Mac Mahon is installing an exterior interactive light work inviting participation from passersby, promoting the show from the outside by encouraging investigation. LUMA with its various components maximises the gallery's diverse exhibition conditions and its unique geographical setting.
Offset against these experimental light works is the large scale saturated graphic work of Mario Sughi. This selection of digital paintings forms Encounters the second half of the Luan Gallery summer 2017 presentation.
Dublin based, Italian born Sughi, who works under the alias nerosunero comes from impressive art stock. The son of renowned painter Alberto Sughi - considered one of the major Italian artists of "Existential Realism" – it was under the guidance of his father that the artist began his training. For Alberto, drawing was a ‘serious, beautiful and at times difficult passion’, while for Mario; it was ‘a fun, pleasurable pursuit’. It is this element of fun that strongly permeates his work today. Another aspect of his work indicative of his heritage is its distinctly Italian feel. Not in the traditional sense of course, nerosunero's work is far more 'Milano' than 'Medici' but in a contemporary way. His work speaks of piazza side espressos, summers by the lago, expensive designer handbags and most of all, the great Italian sport of people watching.
Nerosunero’s rich narrative works quickly convert the viewer to voyeur with compositions that reveal snapshots of intimate encounters and moments of invaded privacy - if indeed, there is such a thing. The illustrative pieces in arresting technicolour seem to reflect the instafamous generation where every detail of existence from the precious to the mundane is gamely shared on social media to be mined, measured, sorted and sold. In a society that so readily undermines any concept of discretion or confidentiality, with ubiquitous public displays of private moments, nerosunero's works call to question issues of voyeurism, surveillance, and privacy.
Nerosunero’s palette is at times garish and psychedelic: featuring bright yellow lawns and saturated blue skies. Other times it is pale and blanched: incorporating soft grey backgrounds, ashen skin tones and bleached scenes. This play on colour is again mirrored in our ever engulfing world of social media where the use of filters and photo manipulation deludes and distracts from reality. As blemishes are smoothed, waistlines slimmed, contrasts, lux and colour saturation tweaked to perceived perfection, the cold hard light of day becomes an expendable and undesirable non essential. Images, feigned from real life are meticulously stage-managed to portray a selected mood or feeling and in this way we see life truly imitating art.
LUMA and Encounters are two distinct collections of work which showcase different contemporary methods of art making. They are brought together here to form Luan Gallery’s summer 2017 exhibition, creating an eclectic contrasting atmosphere in the gallery spaces providing our visiting audiences with a selection of ‘luminous encounters’ to ponder and peruse.
Athlone Arts and Tourism Ltd